PDP, NC MLCs clash over burning of schools; Oppn stages walk-out

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Jan 19: The Upper House today witnessed noisy scenes and disruption as the ruling PDP  and the opposition National Conference members   clashed over the issue of torching of  Government schools in Kashmir valley during  recent Kashmir unrest  while the entire opposition  stages walk-out after the PDP members raised serious allegations against them alleging that they were part of conspiracy.
The uproarious scenes were witnessed during Question Hour when Minister of State for  Education  Priya Sethi was responding to the joint question of NC members- Dr Bashir Ahmed Veeri and Qaiser Jamshed Lone.  Both the members raised supplementary questions and asked under what legal  framework the female teachers were deployed on duty as watch and ward staff round the clock in schools in far flung areas.
Jamshed Lone said that reply was misleading and factually incorrect. He also asked whether the Director School Education’s order was also for the female teachers  to give night duty in their respective schools  in Kashmir valley?  Congress member Ghulam Nabi Monga asked whether there was any such order ever issued by the Director? He demanded that copy of  the order be produced in the House for the knowledge of the members.
Upon this PDP members Yasir Reshi, Saifuddin Bhat and Surinder Choudhary stood up and trained guns at the opposition members. Yasir alleged that the Opposition was part of conspiracy in burning the schools in Kashmir. Their children study in top private schools outside and the children of poor people study in Government schools. Upon this, all the opposition members  including those from Congress also stood up and process of allegations and counter allegations started.
NC member Sajjad Kichloo said it was most unfair on the part of ruling party that when the members are asking questions  from Minister and seeking clarification, the PDP members were trying to disturb the proceedings. He said that raising such serious allegations in the House was condemnable and unfortunate and  Chairman should take note of it.
There was total chaos and amidst noisy scenes nothing was clearly audible. Chairman, Anayat Ali repeatedly tried to intervene but  members continued to clash and raise allegations and counter allegations.  Two Ministers Ghulam Nabi Lone and Ch Lal Singh also tried to intervene but the members from both the sides were not prepared to listen. Then the opposition members lodging their strong protest came closer to the well  protesting and staged walk out from the House at around 11.43 am.
Earlier, replying to the main question of Dr Veeri and Qaiser Lone, Priya Sethi told the House that during Kashmir unrest, anti-social elements   have burnt 32 school buildings, of which 14 were damaged fully while 18 partially.   She said the police has arrested 47 persons in this connection and cases have been registered against them.
Replying to another question, the Minister said in view of the incidents of  burning of schools, the Divisional Administration took various measures for protection of these buildings, which includes deployment of watch and ward staff, seeking help from association members of  Village Level Education Committee, Numberdars/ Chowkidars, Local Auqaf Committee/ local Masjid Imams and respectable members of the area. Regular monitoring was also started besides taking fire safety measures and  providing   better lighting in schools.
Sethi said besides this, the Director School Education Kashmir issued circular/ instructions to prepare duty roster so that at least one official  is present round the clock. However, it was specifically mentioned that teachers shall remain in the school during day time only. Such measures proved successful and 15 such attempts of the anti-social elements were foiled. In many areas, teachers themselves voluntarily offered their services to protect schools.
The schools were categorized as normal, sensitive and   hyper-sensitive.  The hyer-category was provided round the clock watch and ward staff. The Minister said that it was very pious task to protect  the temples of learning. “And if even I was asked to do this job I can not refuse. It is the responsibility of the whole community to protect them because it is question of the education of their children”, she added.
Later, Chairman directed the Ministers to bring the opposition members inside the House. Then Ch Lal Singh  and Farooq Andrabi went outside and brought back the opposition members.